By Alex Cameron, NEWS 9
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Oklahoma City sales tax revenues are beginning to trend well below expectations, raising the possibility of significant budget cuts for the coming year.
The city's April sales tax check, which reflects purchasing activity from mid-February to mid-March, totaled $13,647,192, almost 10 percent below projections, and seven percent below April 2008 collections.
City officials say, for the entire 2009 fiscal year, which began last July 1, collections are still up three percent over 2008 fiscal year, but they're concerned about the recent downward trend, which began with the March check.
If next month's collections are also below expectations, they say, department heads may be asked to cut deeper into their proposed budgets. They are already being asked to prepare budgets that are 1.5 percent below current year levels.
City leaders still say Oklahoma City's financial picture remains brighter than those of most cities, but acknowledge the recession does seem to be catching up with the state.
"We thought there'd be growth, and there wasn't growth, as a matter of fact, it was actually a net down," Oklahoma City, City Manager Jim Couch said.
Officials say for the 2009 fiscal year, sales tax collections are still up over last year, and only a quarter of a percent beneath projections.
"So we're not in terrible shape, but the trends are what are disturbing, because we started out with six months that were really strong, two months that were kind of flat, and now we've seen a couple of months that are declining," Couch said.
Retail sales account for three-fifths of the city's sales tax revenue and those, specifically, are down 2.68 percent from last year. Apparel and accessory sales have taken the hardest hit, according to the city's figures, dropping almost 10 percent this month. Grocery sales and restaurant receipts are the only retail areas that continue to grow.